Sarah heard the suction of the patio door above her open. She didn’t know the freak that lived above her but she had heard her playing the same song on repeat all night. She could just picture her looming above them, her ears straining to hear everything.
“I can’t go back,” Sarah said.
“Why not, I love you,” Gabriel said.
“Stop saying that,” Sarah yelled.
Sarah looked out at the prairies. The tall stalks of grass swayed in the evening breeze. The sky was tinged red and orange as the sun began to fade from the sky. She took a deep inhalation of the cigarette clutched between her fingers. She could feel Gabriel’s condescending look and it only made her smoke faster and deeper.
“I brought your ring,” Gabriel said as he reached into his shirt pocket. He held out her ring to her and she looked away. She felt his hand on hers as he grabbed her and shoved the ring into her palm. She clutched it but didn’t turn to look at him. She could feel the heat of his body, his rough fingertips on her wrist, it would be so easy to turn into him, to lean up and kiss his tender lips. To leave her shitty apartment and go back to their home where she had no responsibilities, where she didn’t have to worry about paying the rent or buying furniture. But she couldn’t do that, she needed something more than what Gabriel could give her —she needed her freedom. The ring in her fist felt heavy and she wrenched her hand back from his.
Sarah threw the cigarette over the balcony and watched it soar onto the brown stubble of grass that surrounded the perimeter of the building.
“That’s really dangerous you know,” Gabriel said.
“I have to go check my laundry,” Sarah said, pushing past Gabriel.
“Fine,” he said, as he moved to let her pass.
Sarah stepped inside her bare apartment. There was no furniture yet as she hadn’t wanted to take anything from their home that reminded her of Gabriel when she had left him.
“Why can’t you believe that I still love you?” he asked as he followed her inside.
“I don’t know Gabe, I just, I just feel like I need to be away from you ok.”
“Because I just need to.”
Sarah stood in her new apartment that was being tainted with memories of Gabriel already. She had to get him out.
“Come on,” she said.
“Laundry, remember?” she answered.
“You should leave the patio door open, its like a furnace in here,” Gabriel said.
Sarah glared at him. She walked to the counter and put the ring on it.
“I brought you some of your clothes from home. They’re in the car,” he added.
Sarah sighed and walked to the apartment door. “Keep them.” She swung the door open and stepped into the hallway. Gabriel followed her and she slammed it shut and walked away.
“Aren’t you going to lock the door?” Gabriel asked.
“There’s nothing to steal,” she answered.
They stood in front of the elevator. Sarah kept her eyes on the pink linoleum. She could feel Gabriel staring at her.
The doors slid open and they stepped inside. Sarah slouched into the corner away from Gabriel. The door slid closed and Sarah looked at their reflections in the gold-flecked mirror on the elevator doors. Gabriel was too handsome for her. That had always been a problem. The doors opened at the lobby and Sarah and Gabriel saw that Mary from 1A had cornered the creepy staring guy from the elevator in a corner by the door. He looked like he was small stepping it towards the front door trying to escape. The doors slid closed and Sarah was again faced with the lopsided picture of her and Gabriel.
“Hey look, sorry, Mary, but I was actually on my way out.”
“Oh, where are you going?” Mary asked, stepping closer to Gerry.
“You know, just, out.”
“Did I tell you about the plant idea for the lobby?” she asked.
“Uh, yeah, you did.”
“What is your favourite type of plant?”
“I uh, don’t know.”
“Do you like Ferns?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Me too. But I really have to tell you my dream before you leave.”
“I really have to go but ah, tell me later ok,” Gerry said, as he pushed open the front door and stepped out into the darkening night. “I’ll see you around, Mary.”
Mary watched Gerry rush down the steps that lead to the sidewalk in front of the building. She watched until he was out of sight then turned around. Her hands felt empty and she looked around for her broom. She must have left it on C. She walked to the elevator and pressed the up button.
Sarah slammed the dryer door shut. She was tired of having to explain herself to Gabriel. She just wanted some silence. No more questions.
“Why won’t you come home?” he asked.
“Because, it’s your home not mine. Mine is here.” Gabriel was hurt, she could tell. He was playing with his hair too much which meant he was hiding something. “What?” she exploded.
“I just, I fucking love you so much and I don’t know why you’re here and calling this shitty building your home.”
Sarah walked out of the room not waiting for him, her laundry bag slung over her shoulder. She stood in front of the elevator doors waiting for them to open, she heard him walk out of the room, his slow steps echoing on the concrete.
“Do you at least want your clothes?” he asked when he was standing beside her.
“No,” she said.
“Because I don’t.”
“Because you don’t love me anymore.”
Sarah got on the elevator and Gabriel followed. Sarah avoided looking at the mirrored doors and instead focused on a pebble that was rolling around on the floor. They stood in silence until the door opened at the lobby. Sarah stepped off and Gabriel followed. She hugged her arms to her chest as they stood looking at each other. Sarah could feel tears in her eyes and she wished he would just go away.
Martha stood up. Her stomach was rumbling and she went to the kitchen in search of some dinner. The sun had set and her apartment was dark. She left the lights off and as she opened the fridge the stark brightness lit her apartment for a moment. She grabbed a diet cola and popped the top. She started to chug the liquid. Her mouth, lungs and stomach burned but she kept on drinking.
Swish, swish, swish.
Martha knew that sound. It was Mary. She was sweeping the hallway again. Martha wandered to the door, her comforter trailing behind her and the pop in one hand. She peered out the peephole and watched Mary. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
Swish, swish, swish.
Martha felt sorry for Mary. She was so lonely. Martha heard the door to her left open.
“Oh hi Michael, ” Mary said, he voice high in excitement.
“Mary,” Michael said.
Martha laughed to herself. She knew how much Michael hated Mary. He would rant to anybody who would listen.
“You going down?” Mary asked, as she gestured towards the elevator.
“Yep,” Michael said.
“Me too, let’s ride together.”
Martha watched as Michael rolled his eyes and walked towards the elevator. Mary followed and stood beside him, picking at the peeling paint on her broom.
“You now what? I’m just going to take the stairs,” Michael said.
“I’ll go with you, I could use the exercise.”
Martha watched as Michael clenched his jaw and walked towards the stairs. He opened the door and Mary walked through.
“I saw Vanessa this morning, she was talking to Larry from 2B, they looked like they were trading secrets or something…”
The door to the stairs closed and Martha was left with the view of an empty hallway. She turned and walked towards the couch in her living room. She sat down and placed her can of cola on the table and noticed her cellphone lying amongst the discarded food wrappers. She bit her lip before reaching for it. Her heart started to hammer in her chest as she turned it on and swiped until she found Marks number. Her breath came in shallows gasps as she decided whether or not she should call him. Her finger pressed call.
RING, RING, RING.
The phone clicked and she heard someone take a breath, “Hello?”
“Mark?” Martha strained to hear anything, “Mark, it’s me, Martha.”
Martha breathed into the silence.
“Stop calling him bitch,” a woman’s voice said. “You’re pathetic.”
Martha turned the phone off. Her face was sweating and red. Her heart hammered in her chest. She looked at the phone, screamed and threw it at the wall, it shattered and fell to the carpet. Martha started to cry and slid to the floor. 1, 2, 3, 4.